HEALTHIER AGING: Getting down to the lower GI tract

November 2005 
Volume 35  Number 11
Pages 20 - 21
  PDF Version Available!



YOU MAY NEED to play detective if your older adult patient has a gastrointestinal (GI) illness; because of age-related changes, signs and symptoms may be vague or misleading. In the October issue, I discussed how age-related changes affect the upper GI tract. In this article, I'll outline how aging affects the lower GI tract, review common disorders, and explain how your interventions can help minimize problems.

Start out small

The small intestine's motility and peristalsis slow down with age. Not only does the number of villi decrease, but the effectiveness of those remaining diminishes too. This in turn slows the absorption of fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium and magnesium.

Your older patient is also more likely to develop a hernia because his abdominal muscles are weaker.

With age, blood flow to the large intestine lessens and intestinal motility and peristalsis decrease. The neural ...

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